Activist community

Sudan’s new community squad raises fears of a return to ‘morality police’ | Global Development

Human rights activists in Sudan fear that the launch of a new police force could herald the return of ‘morality policing’ to the country.

The government announced the creation of the community policing unit to “reaffirm relations between the population and the police” and ensure security.

The police’s former “community service unit”, which arrested and punished people, especially women, for their behavior, was disbanded after former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019.

The public order laws they enforced, which prevented women from wearing trousers, having their heads uncovered or mingling with men who were not their immediate family – and prohibited brewing or drinking alcohol – were repealed by the transitional government that followed.

However, courts in some parts of Sudan continued to prosecute women for violating dress codes and people caught drinking alcohol. The Guardian has seen people being whipped for drinking alcohol in Khartoum state.

Amid a crackdown since the military coup in October, activists believe the creation of the new unit is another attempt to roll back the small gains for women’s rights made over the previous two years. In June, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, the first known case in a decade.

The Interior Ministry confirmed that the new police unit had recently raided a house in an affluent neighborhood of Khartoum and arrested 18 people for drinking and prostitution.

Mervet Elneil, a women’s rights activist, said the community policing unit was “clearly targeting women and not protecting anyone”.

“It’s a way of domesticating them, and we have a long history in this area, since Sudan was under British administration. In this latest version of Community Safety [team] they mainly targeted women to extract money from them.

Amir Suliman, a Sudanese human rights lawyer at the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, said: “It’s really worrying, and it’s a disastrous decision by the police…we expect that it is a new tool to terrorize women and other weak people. in society.

“We don’t need this new body to organize the relationship between people and the police.”